Forgiveness (Renew Your Mind Challenge Week Twelve)

Welcome to week twelve of our Renew Your Mind Challenge! I am so glad you have joined us! In this 13-week challenge, I am sharing with you the single most life-changing truth I have personally discovered.

I will update the links below as I post them.

1. Back to the Beginning
2. Fix Your Mind
3. Accepting His Love
4. Love Into Joy
5. Joy Into Peace
6. Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness
7. Faithfulness
8. Self-Control
9. Overcome Evil With Good
10. Gratitude
11. Reframing
12. Forgiveness
13. Affirmations

I used to be depressed, needy, easily offended, anxious, stressed – the list goes on. Now I am happy, fulfilled, and at peace. I discovered the answer at 29 years of age. The secret to happiness lies in your inner response to life: perceptions, intentions, feelings, thought patterns, beliefs. Come along with me and let your faith come alive to you in a new way – a way that will change everything. Each week, we will focus on one small yet powerful action we can take to change our inner life, and renew ourselves into the love of God.

Today we are going to talk about the third practical tool that we can use to help renew our minds. This tool is one we are all familiar with: forgiveness.

First let’s talk about what “forgiveness” is. There are many definitions. Our culture tells us, for instance, that forgiveness is all about us. I’m sure you’ve seen the memes floating around on facebook:

“Forgiveness isn’t about excusing them, it’s about freeing you.” or “I forgive for me, so I don’t have to be reminded of what they’ve done.”

Different denominations of Christianity have their own definitions of forgiveness. Some define forgiveness as giving over the desire for vengeance to God. The desire isn’t eliminated, just transferred. Others define forgiveness as something only to be given if asked for. If the offender doesn’t ask for forgiveness, it is OK, according to this definition, to remain offended. This view is based on the belief that God does not forgive our sins unless we ask.

On the other side of the spectrum, some view forgiveness as complete reconciliation and restoration of trust. This means that we continue to allow others the opportunity to repeatedly hurt us. In some instances, this may be ok, if the offense is minor and the person is undergoing growth. However, what about more serious offenses, like in the case of abuse?

To find a balanced definition of forgiveness, let’s look at the ultimate example of forgiveness – God himself. Let’s look at Jesus on the cross. Let’s think for a moment about what he endured.

Let’s really picture this in our minds. I want you to see Jesus, beaten, spit at, bloody and torn. I want you to hear the crowds cheering and mocking. Look at his face as he hangs there. See how his jaw is set, clenched in pain. And then, look at his eyes, half-open and blood-shot. What do you see in his eyes?

Is it anger or hatred or a desire for vengeance? Or is it love?

Listen to his words as he opens his mouth to speak. Listen to his last words. What does he say, right before “It is finished?”

“Father, forgive them.”

God incarnate, in his dying moments, forgave those who tortured and brutally killed him. In his death, in sacrificing himself for all of our sin, his love overcame, and all was forgiven.

The Bible says: “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

Good overcomes evil. Light eradicates darkness. Love covers sin. This is the message of the Gospel in as simple of terms as it gets. The biggest covering of love that has ever occurred happened on the cross. Jesus covered the sins of the whole world with his love.

God forgave before we asked for it. God incarnate, on the cross, forgave people who would never ask for his forgiveness. “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” leaves no room for “handing vengeance over to God.” No, Jesus – God incarnate – asked the Father to forgive. This is what so many of us miss.

The only thing left for us to do is to receive that forgiveness. And when we do, when that love and forgiveness takes over our hearts, the darkness in our heart is eradicated. The evil in our heart is overcome. And that good, the love, the light, that is now in our heart, can overcome the evil around us, eradicate the light around us, and cover the sin around us.

This is the true definition of forgiveness. It is choosing to allow love to overcome any evil done to us. This means that forgiveness is a deeply-rooted heart response in which we choose to feel love for that person. We choose to let our light shine brightly enough to cover their darkness. Forgiveness is not about us, although it does free us and provide us with a growth opportunity. Forgiveness is about sacrifice, about genuinely wanting the best for someone who has hurt us.

Forgiveness does not mean that all will automatically be repaired, or that trust will be rebuilt. It means that our heart response to them, and our resulting actions toward them will be loving. How they respond to our love is up to them.

Forgiveness is about our heart response to someone who has hurt us. We keep coming back to the heart response, because it is all about the heart response.

Our challenge for this month is to focus on forgiveness. Let’s be mindful that we have the power to overcome the evil directed toward us by rising to meet it with a loving response. Let’s be mindful that we can cover the sins of those around us with our honest, heartfelt, forgiveness. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

The way to overcome evil is not by repaying hurt for hurt, pushing people away, or punishing them for offending us. When we do that, we allow the darkness directed toward us to take root in our hearts. The only way to overcome evil is to match it with good. When we keep our heart responses toward others pure, we refuse to let darkness into our own hearts, and we shine the light of love into the other person’s heart.

Week eleven challenge: When someone does us wrong, forgive. Say “I forgive this person and I choose to let my love be strong enough to cover their offense.” Even if you don’t feel it right away, say it until you do. Choose one loving action to do for them in return for their hurtful action. Overcome evil with good!

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